Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Microsoft founder Bill Gates where the President reportedly told the tech billionaire that AI from the US was welcome in China.
This is contrary to reports that have insinuated China was deliberately shutting out US technologies in what has been described as a battle for tech supremacy between the two super powers.
Gates and President Jinping met at Beijing’s Diaoyutai state guesthouse.
An old friend
First reported by Reuters, the comments came following a Gates visit with President Jinping, which allowed the two to discuss various issues among them Microsoft’s business operations in China, where it has been operating for more than 30 years with a research lab.
When asked to comment on the discussions with the Chinese President, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation referred Reuters to a post that Gates made about his visit, although the post alluded to his philanthropic work linked to climate change and health.
According to reports from sources close to the meeting, the Chinese first citizen described Gates as “an old friend,” saying he was the first American friend he had met in 2023.
“I often say the foundation of US-China relations lies with its people,” said the President according to a video published by CCTV, its state broadcaster.
“I Place my hopes on the American people.”
I’ve just landed in Beijing for the first time since 2019, where I’m excited to visit with partners who have been working on global health and development challenges with @gatesfoundation for more than 15 years.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) June 14, 2023
“With the current global situation, we can carry out various activities beneficial to our two countries and people, activities that benefit humanity as a whole,” added President Xi, according to CCTV.
The meeting between the two has come at time relations between the US and China seem to be sour as the tech rivalry continues.
Although President Xi has previously acknowledged the potential of AI and that his country would take advantage of it to grow the economy, the country has been cautious.
The Asian country is working on laws to regulate generative AI, while there are investments to power AI startups, a move that is expected to reduce reliance on AI systems from the US.
On the other hand, the US has also imposed export restrictions thwarting China’s AI efforts.
Tough time in China
Although Microsoft’s Bing is the only foreign search engine accessible from China, it is susceptible to censorship on information deemed sensitive by the Chinese administration.
Despite being in that country for over 30 years, the tech giant has faced challenges lately on the back of China’s tightening of its regulations governing the sector.
In 2021, Microsoft discontinued LinkedIn China and replaced it with a “stripped-down version” focused only on jobs.
The company said in May it would also shut down that app due to a host of challenges like a tough macro-economic environment together with stiff competition.
Now, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which Microsoft has backed with an investment worth billions of dollars is currently not available in China. Although it was not blocked by Chinese authorities, the chatbot is not available for users in that country, Hong Kong and some African countries.
Despite the restrictions, the chatbot went viral even in China where it is accessible via VPNs. Its popularity has triggered a wave of investments into AI with several companies in China rushing to introduce alternatives while others incorporated the technology in their businesses.
Search engine giant Baidu has already released its chatbot Ernie, an alternative to OpenAI’s ChatGPT.